Tuesday, April 28, 2009


With Tweetminster and the general explosion in the use of Twitter it is perhaps not much of a surprise to find that the European Parliament on Twitter. Europatweets offers a news feed and links to a significant number of MEP twittering in order, as the site states, to make "Members of the European Parliament closer to their citizens". Visitors to the site are asked to "Follow what they say, react and retweet interesting thoughts". No great surprises so far, however what is interesting is the level of usage compared to the UK parliament, parties and elected members. There are only 42 tweeting MEPs, but between them they have produced 2,365 individual tweets. The UK has four tweeting MEPs with more than 100 followers, Lib Dem Graham Watson, Northern Ireland's Jim Nicholson and Labour MEPs Arlene McCarthy and Mary Honeyball; showing she is keen Labour candidate Anne Fairweather is also a member already and has 207 followers. Only Graham Watson, with 677 followers, looks to be making an impact though; the other 11 have 95 or less. Compare this to Portuguese MEP Rui Tavares, not only does he appear to tweet every couple of minutes at some points, he has 1,233 followers as well as a well read blog; the Socialist PES tweet most closely followed by the Greens. So What?

Well clearly someone is interested in what MEPs get up to, they are creating their own buzz and the citizens of the nations they represent are interested in them. Watson is perhaps a pioneer here, consistent with the Liberal Democrats' approach to new media, but the interest of UK MEPs perhaps reflects the lack of interest in the European Parliament generally. But perhaps it is an indication that such a tool can increase engagement and actually can, in Tavares case, put an MEP in touch with a fair proportion of people and if Word of Mouth is powerful perhaps if all of these tell another nine he may find it pays dividends for him. Will this be the tool for the near future (until the next gimmick comes along) and what role will it and can it play for MEPs and MPs?


Matt Hurst said...

Well as a advocate of Europe anything that bypasses a really skeptical media is a good thing.

Who knows who this is reaching mind, the numbers in this country however suggest people who are interested.

Perhaps the appeal the Tories have in politics on the blogsphere is rather dented when transferred to some of the unsavory characters they mix with in Europe, or just general the right want out of europe so don't take an interest, who knows.

rui tavares said...

Hi Darren, Rui Tavares here.

One correction and some thoughts.

The correction is that I am not a MEP but only a candidate, and a bit of a backbencher at that (in our system we in a list of people, and I am the third on the list of a left-wing party).

From what I can gather from the most tollowed twitter MEPs and candidates, it helps that we do not only tweet about politics and europe. That's certainly true in my case: I was twitting before I was a candidate, and although I am a pretty irregular twitterer, I feel part of this continuum between politics, culture, current events and some humour that twitter is about. If you use it only as a mouthpiece for political positions it becomes boring.

Second thought: it helps to not be exclusively obsessed about your politicial "career" (in my case, I am not a professional politician; I am more of a columnist and essayist). Political twitter feeds sometimes betray that their authors too worried about not commiting mistakes and not revealing too much of what they really think. As much as I understand why that is so, I think everybody loses that way.

Well, thanks for the mention, and let's hope that technology helps us build the future european democracy.

rui tavares said...

Well, too much typos in my comment, but I guess the general sense of what I was trying to say does not get lost. Running a bit here.

rui tavares said...

too *many* typos. sigh.

Darren G Lilleker said...

My apologies Rui for the mistake, I made an assumption. Good points I agree, I hope too that technology can help engage more Europeans with Europe. Good luck with the contest and do not worry at all about the typos, I make plenty of them myself.